Additional Poems

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Additional Poems
written by Alfred Edward Housman
1997. Link to further information

I. Atys

"Lydians, lords of Hermus river,
    Sifters of the golden loam,
See you yet the lances quiver
    And the hunt returning home?"

"King, the star that shuts the even
    Calls the sheep from Tmolus down;
Home return the doves from heaven,
    And the prince to Sardis town."

From the hunting heavy laden
    Up the Mysian road they ride;
And the star that mates the maiden
    Leads his son to Croesus' side.

"Lydians, under stream and fountain
    Finders of the golden vein,
Riding from Olympus mountain,
    Lydians, see you Atys plain?"

"King, I see the Phrygian stranger
    And the guards in hunter's trim,
Saviours of thy son from danger;
    Them I see. I see not him."

"Lydians, as the troop advances,
    —It is eve and I am old—
Tell me why they trail their lances,
    Washers of the sands of gold.

"I am old and day is ending
    And the wildering night comes on;
Up the Mysian entry wending,
    Lydians, Lydians, what is yon?"

Hounds behind their master whining,
    Huntsmen pacing dumb beside,
On his breast the boar-spear shining,
    Home they bear his father's pride.


Oh were he and I together,
    Shipmates on the fleeted main,
Sailing through the summer weather
    To the spoil of France or Spain.

Oh were he and I together,
    Locking hands and taking leave,
Low upon the trampled heather
    In the battle lost at eve.

Now are he and I asunder
    And asunder to remain;
Kingdoms are for others' plunder,
    And content for other slain.


When Adam walked in Eden young
    Happy, 'tis writ, was he,
While high the fruit of knowledge hung
    Unbitten on the tree.

Happy was he the livelong day:
    I doubt 'tis written wrong:
The heart of man, for all they say,
    Was never happy long.

And now my feet are tired of rest
    And here they will not stay
And the soul fevers in my breast
    And aches to be away.


It is no gift I tender,
    A loan is all I can;
But do not scorn the leader;
    Man gets no more from man.

Oh, mortal man may borrow
    What mortal man can lend,
And 'twill not end tomorrow
    Though sure enough 'twill end.

If death and time are stronger
    A love may yet be strong;
The world will last for longer
    But this will last for long.


Here are the skies, the planets seven,
    And all the starry train:
Content you with the mimic heaven,
    And on the earth remain.


Ask me no more, for fear I should reply;
    Others have held their tongues, and so can I,
Hundreds have died, and told no tale befoer:
    Ask me no more, for fear I should reply—

How one was true and one was clean of stain
    And one was braver than the heavens are high,
And one was fond of me: and all are slain.
    Ask me no more, for fear I should reply.


He would not stay for me; and who can wonder?
    He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.
I shook his hand and tore my heart in sunder
    And went with half my life about my ways.


Now to her lap the incestuous earth
    The son she bore has ta'en,
And other sons brings to birth
    But not my friend again.


When the bells justle in the tower
    The hollow night amid,
Then on my tongue the taste is sour
    Of all I ever did.


Oh on my breast in days hereafter
    Light the earth should lie,
Such weight to bear is now the air,
    So heavy hangs the sky.


Morning up the eastern stair
Marches, azuring the air,
And the foot of twilight still
Is stolen toward the western sill.
Blithe the maids go milking, blithe
Men in hayfields stone the scythe,
All the land's alive around
Except the churchyard's idle ground.
—There's empty acres west and east
But aye 'tis God's that bears the least:
This hopeless garden that they sow
With the seeds that never grow.


—They shall have breath that never were,
But he that was shall have it ne'er;
The unconcieved and unbegot
Shall look on heaven, but he shall not.

—The heart with many wildfires lit,
Ice is not so cold as it.
The thirst that rivers could not lay
A little dust has quenched for aye;
And in a fathom's compass lie
Thoughts much wider than the sky.


Stay, if you list, O passer by the way;
Yet night approaches: better not to stay.
    I never sigh, nor flush, nor knit the brow,
    Nor frieve to think how ill God made me, now.
Here, with one balm for many fevers found,
Whole of an ancient evil, I sleep sound.


Oh turn not in from marching
    To taverns on the way:
The drought and thirst and parching
    A little dust will lay
    And take desire away.

Oh waste no words a wooing
    The soft sleep to your bed;
She is not worth pursuing,
    You will so soon be dead
    And death will serve instead.


"Oh is it the jar of nations,
    The noise of a world run mad,
The fleeing of earth's foundations?"
    Yes, yes; lie quiet, my lad.

"Oh is it my country calling,
    And whom will my country find
To shore up the sky from falling?"
    My business; never you mind.

"Oh is it the newsboys crying
    Lost battle, retreat, despair,
And honour and England dying?"
    Well, fighting cock, what if it were?

The devil this side of the darnels
    Is having a dance with man,
And quarrelsome chaps in charnels
    Must bear it as best they can.


'Tis five years since, "An end," said I,
"I'll march no further, time to die.
All's lost; no worse has heaven to give."
Worse it has given, and yet I live.

I shall not die today, no fear:
I shall live yet for many a year,
And see worse ills and worse again,
And die of age and not of pain.

The stark steel splintered from the thrust,
The basalt mountain sprang to dust,
The blazing pier of diamond flawed
In shards of rainbows all abroad.

What found he that the heavens stand fast?
What pillar proven firm at last
Bears up so light that world-seen span?
The heart of man, the heart of man.


Some can gaze and not be sick
But I could never learn the trick.
    There's this to say for blood and breath,
    They give a man a taste for death.


The stars have not dealt me the worst they could do:
My pleasures are plenty, my troubles are two.
But oh, my two troubles they reave me of rest,
The brains in my head and the heart in my breast.

Oh, grant me the ease that is granted so free,
The birthright of multitudes, give it to me,
That relish their victuals and rest on their bed
With flint in the bosom and guts in the head.


Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?
And what has he been after that they groan and shake their fists?
And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air?
Oh they're taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.

'Tis a shame to human nature, such a head of hair as his;
In the good old time 'twas hanging for the colour that it is;
Though hanging isn't bad enough and flaying would be fair
For the nameless and abominable colour of his hair.

Oh a deal of pains he's taken and a pretty price he's paid
To hide his poll or dye it of a mentionable shade;
But they've pulled the beggar's hat off for the world to see and stare,
And they're haling him to justice for the colour of his hair.

Now 'tis oakum for his fingers and the treadmill for his feet
And the quarry-gang on Portland in the cold and in the heat,
And between his spells of labour in the time he has to spare
He can curse the God that made him for the colour of his hair.

XIX. The Defeated

In battles of no renown
My fellows and I fall down,
And over the dead men roar
The battles they lost before.

The thunderstruck flagstaffs fall,
The earthquake breaches the wall,
The far-felled steeples resound,
And I lie under the ground.

O soldiers, saluted afar
By them that have seen your star,
In conquest and freedom and pride
Remember your friends that died.

Amidst rejoicing and song
Remember, my lads, how long,
How deep the innocent trod
The grapes of the anger of God.


I shall not die for you,

   Another fellow may;

Good lads are left and true

   Thought one departs away.
   But he departs to-day

And leaves his work to do,

   For I was luckless aye

And shall not die for you. </poem>

XXI. New Year's Eve

The end of the year fell chilly
    Between a moon and a moon;
Thorough the twilight shrilly
    The bells rang, ringing no tune.

The windows stained with story,
    The walls with miracle scored,
Were full of weeping and laughter
    And song and saying good-bye.

There stood in the holy places
    A multitude none could name,
Ranks of dreadful faces
    Flaming, transfigured in flame.

Crown and tiar and mitre
    Were starry with gold and gem;
Christmas never was whiter
    Then fear on the face of them.

In aisles that emperors vaulted
    For a faith the world confessed,
Abasing the Host exalted,
    They worshipped towards the west.

They brought with laughter oblation;
    They prayed, not bowing the head;
They made without tear lamentation,
    And rendered me answer and said:

"O thou that seest our sorrow,
    It fares with us even thus:
To-day we are gods, to-morrow
    Hell have mercy on us.

"Lo, morning over our border
    From out of the west comes cold;
Down ruins the ancient order
    And empire builded of old.

"Our house at even is queenly
    With psalm and censers alight:
Look thou never so keenly
    Thou shalt not find us to-night.

"We are come to the end appointed
    With sands not many to run:
Divinities disanointed
    And kings whose kingdom is done.

"The peoples knelt down at our portal,
    All kindreds under the sky;
We were gods and implored and immortal
    Once; and to-day we die."

They turned them again to theri praying,
    They worshipped and took no rest
Singing old tunes and saying
    "We have seen his star in the west,"

Old tunes of the sacred psalters,
    Set to wild farewells;
And I left them there at their altars
    Ringing their own dead knells.

XXII. R. L. S.

Home is the sailor, home from sea:
    Her far-borne canvas furled,
The ship pours shining on the quay
    The plunder of the world.

Home is the hunter from the hill:
    Fast in the boundless snare
All flesh lies taken at his will
    And every fowl of air.

'Tis evening on the moorland free,
    The starlit wave is still:
Home is the sailor from the sea,
    The hunter from the hill.

XXIII. The Olive

The olive in its orchard
    Should now be rooted sure,
To cast abroad its branches
    And flourish and endure.

Aloft amid the trenches
    Its dressers dug and died
The olive in its orchard
    Should prosper and abide.

Close should the fruit be clustered
    And light the leaf should wave,
So deep the root is planted
    In the corrupting grave.

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SemiPD-icon.png This posthumous work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright terms of posthumous works are 10 years or less since posthumous publication, rather than based on how many years after author's death.
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